Free Air tickets for jailed Sri lankan Domestic helpers in Bahrain

Sri Lankan Government has pledged to pay for the air tickets of female workers returning home from Bahrain’s prisons. Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) action committee head Marietta Dias said the vow was made to the society by Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry officials.

“We have spoken with the Sri Lankan Government and they have said they will arrange the air tickets for the repatriation of women in prison,” she told the SecondCity News Desk.

“They told us not to pay for any more air tickets and let them know if any new cases come up.”

Dias said the Sri Lankan Government had also agreed to fund the air tickets of runaway housemaids Ismail Nisvika, 26, and Chitra Kodikara, 35, who have been staying at the MWPS shelter for several months.

Dias said she had no idea why the Government suddenly decided to take financial responsibility for female prisoners, or how the plan would work.

But she welcomed the offer to improve the support available to the 12,000-strong Sri Lankan population in Bahrain.

“It is a step in the right direction because it is becoming too expensive for us to buy tickets for these people,” Dias said.

The Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait looks after the affairs of its citizens in Bahrain, although some visa and consular services are offered through honorary Consul-General P B Higgoda at the Sri Lanka Club.

Meanwhile, Dias said the number of housemaids of all nationalities running away from their sponsors was on the rise and called for the recruitment of highly-skilled workers.

“It is a fact that more are running away and we have noticed that,” she said.

“Many have never dealt with household gadgets and equipment and are not used to the size of the houses.

“It is unfair to the sponsors also, as they see that these people are not capable and there is also the language and cultural barrier,” she added.

Related Story: The Media Line: THE PLIGHT OF SRI LANKA’S ENSLAVED MOTHERS, DAUGHTERS AND SISTERS

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American Express Issues Travel Insurance Warning

Travelling abroad on your EHIC alone does not provide you with sufficient cover, the credit card firm has warned.

Travelling abroad on your EHIC alone does not provide you with sufficient cover, the credit card firm has warned.

Many British holidaymakers are neglecting to take out travel insurance – because they believe that their EHIC cards offer them cover instead.

According to research from American Express, 2.3 million travellers who took a trip within the EU over the past year did not take out insurance for this reason. The firm also said that this total had not significantly changed since a similar poll was taken in 2006

Currently, the free cards do not provide holiday cancellation, curtailment or repatriation. Instead, EHIC merely offers holidaymakers free or reduced healthcare in EU countries, in cases of accident, injury or illness.

Chris Rolland, head of American Express Insurance Services, explained: “EHIC cards are solely for emergency medical treatment in Europe and people must make sure that they have independent, quality travel insurance to ensure that they have comprehensive cover to avoid any unwanted financial difficulties.”

He added: “With so many Brits planning a summer holiday in Europe this month, travellers should be careful not to rely on European Health Insurance Cards. They are not a substitute for comprehensive travel insurance so you will not be covered for delays, loss of baggage or cancellations or experience other benefits of having an independent travel insurance policy.”

South Asian Bar Association of Northern California to help ASA students

It seems that help is on its way for the students of the American School of Aviation,  South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA) has offered assistance to the more than 100 stranded students for assessing their legal options to get justice and remain within the U.S.

A press release issued by the South Asian Bar Association confirms the report. “These students have been placed in a really tough situation. They did not receive the opportunity to complete their coursework as promised and have not been assured that refunds will be provided. Many of them do not have permanent housing and some of them are still attempting to transfer to other schools,” said Shaamini Babu, Co-chair of SABA’s Pro Bono Committee, who is working with Ashok Sinha, consul for community affairs at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco, to ascertain the facts of the case and the legal issues that the students are facing.

Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security has expressed its wish not to pressurize the students to leave the country upon the expiration of their current visas.

SABA President Khurshid Khoja has asked Merced County District Attorney to bring criminal charges against the owners of the American School of Aviation, a critical move, which will help students obtain U.S. visas for them to remain in the country indefinitely and receive work authorization.

SABA also provided the students with referrals to attorneys in the area willing to take on the civil matter on a contingency basis.

“Our Pro Bono Committee normally doesn’t refer clients to counsel willing to work pro bono unless the public interest is directly implicated. However, in this situation we were able to find SABA members willing to work on contingency because this potential breach of contract renewed our community’s outrage over the exploitation of immigrant South Asians by swindlers, traffickers, and other opportunists who prey on the vulnerable,” said Vid Prabhakaran, SABA Vice President-External.

In this type of contingency arrangement, the attorney receives a percentage of the recovery, only if a recovery is made. In the event that the attorney is unsuccessful, he suffers the costs of bringing the legal action including the costs of filing fees, expert fees, investigation fees, and the attorney’s own legal fees.

Students can contact SABA members and discuss their further plans on below given contact details:

General inquiries about ASA cases should be directed to SABA President Khurshid Khoja via e-mail or mail to:

South Asian Bar Association of Northern California
c/o The Chugh Firm
4800 Great America Parkway, Ste 310
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Travel agent’s trial date vacated as defense looks at options

The Fallon (Fallon is a city in Churchill County, located in western Nevada, United States) travel agent accused of embezzling money from more than 30 people had her scheduled trial date of Sept. 15 vacated Tuesday morning.

Cynthia Lea Holland-Taylor, 60, is charged with 36 crimes, including 16 counts of embezzlement, 16 counts of use of a personal identification and two counts fraud of credit.

District Judge David Huff set a Sept. 2 status hearing with Holland-Taylor in which she could change her plea again.

District Attorney Art Mallory said his office is not changing its position, but added the defense is re-evaluating the case and the not guilty plea.

Mallory said the state wants Holland-Taylor – if convicted Ð to be sent to the Nevada State Prison for the crimes.

He said the eliminated trial date leads him to believe there is a good possibility Holland-Taylor will enter a plea on Sept. 12. If she does not, a new trial date would have to be scheduled.

While the jury trial was scheduled for Sept. 15-26, her attorney, Paul Drakulich has said he doubted the case would go to trial, adding he thought there would be a resolution before then.

The charges against Holland-Taylor stem from her business, Cindy’s Travel Unlimited, in which she allegedly double-billed some customers and took payments for tickets never purchased.

She allegedly received $19,000 in tickets from Blue Sky Travel but never paid for them.

Holland-Taylor is also charged with issuing a bad check, which carries a prison sentence of one to four years and a $5,000 fine.

The embezzlement charges carry penalties of one to 10 years in the Nevada State Prison on each count, and the sentences would double for any victim who is an elderly person. According to the application for the arrest warrant, many of the alleged victims are more than 60 years old.

Obtaining and using false identities of others carries a sentence up to 20 years in the Nevada State Prison and a $100,000 fine, while the fraudulent credit card offenses carry a sentence of one to six years on each

Holland-Taylor remains free on a bail of $167,500.

Stranded Indian Medical students in China are being flown home by Air India

Dozens of Indian medical students who have been stranded in China after buying fake air tickets are being flown home, officials from Air India say.

The airline flew 12 of the students back to India on Monday.

Many students returning to India on holiday were left stranded in Beijing and other parts of China after they learnt their tickets were bogus.

Indian papers reported on Monday that the students were allegedly duped by a Bangladeshi travel agent.

The papers said that one of the students had filed a complaint with the Beijing police.

According to a press release by Air India the airline would bring all the students back to India in the next two to three days.

“We have been approached by at least 30 students so far who are being brought back to India on regular flights from Beijing,” said Prasad Rao, spokesman from Air India.

On Sunday Emirates Airways and Malaysian Airlines were reported not to have accepted the students’ e-tickets on the grounds that they were fake. They were prevented from boarding their flights.

Air India says more than 15 students are flying back on Tuesday and a batch of 20 will be put on a flight to India on Wednesday.

Mr Rao said they were giving priority to the stranded students but he said they were helping only those who were coming forward for help.

He clarified that the travel was not free and students were paying $631 (27,000 rupees) each, which is 15% less than the fares charged by other airlines.

Hundreds of Indian students travel to China and Russia to study medicine rather than sit stringent entrance tests in India.

Most of the students were studying in specialized ultrasound school. Being highly demanding carrier, ultrasound school are very much in demand all over the world.

Bangladeshi Travel Agent duped 154 Indian Medical Students in China

Chinese police have sealed the house of an absconding Bangladeshi agent, accused of duping 154 Indian medical students by selling them fake tickets for flights to India.

Indian embassy officials had requested the police to investigate the case after the students studying in Chongqing, Nanjing and Suzhou medical universities who had booked E-tickets through the agent Mohammed Jabbar Miyan for Emirates and Malaysian airlines were turned back at the airport.

The students, several of whom knew Miyan, were to return home to India for summer vacation to Hyderabad from Shanghai, Chongqing and Suzhou.

They had booked the tickets attracted by cheap fares and transferred the money to the account of Miyan, who is now absconding, sources said. The Bangladesh embassy said there was no record in the Bangladeshi community list to confirm the existence of Miyan.

Sources at the Indian embassy said they have written to the police to investigate the case.

Miyan’s residence had been sealed. The police had also been requested to take measures for freezing the bank accounts of Miyan, they said.

The Emirates and Malaysian airlines had also been contacted seeking information, they said.

A group of students who had booked tickets through the same agent had left but the problem surfaced on July 11 when another batch of 34 was refused boarding pass in shanghai in eastern China by the Emirates airlines whose staff told them that they need to produce credit cards.

The agent had booked the tickets with his card but the money had not reached the emirates airlines. Officials at the Indian embassy and the consulate in shanghai were in touch with the Emirates and Malaysian airlines on the issue.

Air India had been requested to accommodate the students on a priority basis to facilitate the travel of students for vacation after the final exams, they said.

According to sources, out of 154 students, 20 had reached India and nine others managed to get the refund, while the rest are struggling to make the trip and get their money back.

Over 7,000 Indian medical students are studying in Chinese universities.

Kingfisher came inch closer to buying SpiceJet

Kingfisher Airlines is close to acquiring a controlling stake in another low-cost carrier SpiceJet.

The deal will value SpiceJet around $300 million dollars. It is likely to be a cash-and- share swap deal.

Mallya is likely to acquire 26% stake in SpiceJet, and make an open offer for an additional 20% stake. He is also likely to retain Spice as the low-cost carrier of Kingfisher Airlines

If the deal goes through, Mallya, through Kingfisher Airlines, Deccan and Spice, will control 40% market share beating Jet (along with Sahara), which has a market share of 33%.

It will also give Mallya the position to dominate fares in the marketplace. Currently, because of the low cost airline fares, Kingfisher and Jet are forced to sell tickets below cost.

SpiceJet is a fairly well run, lean operation with the smallest loss in the industry. Experts say it will give Kingfisher the right product in the low cost space. And, of course, access to trained manpower.

What may not work too well for the two airlines is the fact that they operate different fleets. Spice flies Boeing while Kingfisher is an Airbus customer. So, there are no clear synergies in operations. Analysts say if the two airlines continue to function separately, it will not pose a big challenge for Mallya.

If the deal does fructify, it could change the aviation landscape in the country and make the airline industry more viable.